President Rodrigo Duterte has declared anew that the Philippines cannot reclaim Chinese-occupied areas in the West Philippine Sea without any bloodshed, saying it would result in a “violence that we cannot maybe win.”
In his public address aired Monday night, the President lashed out at critics who supposedly want him to assert the country’s sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea, claiming that the government could only do so by force.
“We can retake it only by force. There is no way we can get back what they call the [West] Philippine sea without any bloodshed,” Duterte said.
“The issue of the West Philippine Sea remains to be questioned forever until such time that, you know, we can take it back. There’s no other way, but war,” the President added.
Citing Manila’s mutual defense treaty with Washington, Duterte also noted that the United States, the country’s longtime ally, may not defend the Philippines in a war “created” by the latter.
Duterte also slammed his critics who supposedly wanted him to confront China over the continued presence of Chinese warships at the Julian Felipe Reef, located within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone about 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan.
He particularly cited the purported group of 500 active and retired military officers who were allegedly plotting to oust him due to his soft stance on Chinese incursion into Philippine waters, as well as retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio who has been criticizing him for his silence on the matter.
In the past week, a Twitter account dubbed “Info Ops” has been posting about an alleged Viber group composed of military officers who would supposedly withdraw their support to the President if he does not take a stronger stance against China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea.
Carpio, meanwhile, has earlier said China would still believe it has the President’s ally because he has refused to publicize his stance on the matter.
The retired magistrate, who was part of the team that argued for the Philippines’ maritime rights in the West Philippine Sea before a Hague-based arbitration court, underscored that the presence of Chinese ships with the country’s territory is a “very important national issue” that should not be played down.
“I was really downhearted,” Duterte said in his speech. “If we cannot work together with… Maybe we cannot work together on bigger things. So, what’s the point?”
Malacañang, the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines have earlier denied allegations that some active and retired generals have withdrawn support for the commander in chief, who has tip-toed on the maritime dispute and sought closer ties with Beijing.
China’s sweeping claims over almost the entire South China Sea had been junked by the arbitration court, which also recognized Manila’s sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea.